vector-classified-ads-icons-headingsHAVANA, Apr 7 (acn) The Cuban News Agency (acn) has announced the opening of a paid ad space, both on tabloid and on-line, in which cooperatives, state companies, private workers and people in general can now post ads to advertize products and services.

During a news conference at the building hosting the Cuban Journalists Association in Havana, agency director Edda Diz launched the new service called Ofertas by describing it as a safe and legal space for individuals and entities, which will make attractive publicity work at very competitive prices.

Edda said that the new service is aimed at meeting the demands of state companies and of the growing non-state economic sector and at assisting consumers and clients with respect to their rights and duties.

Both the on-line and the print versions will also provide information on legal, technological, commercial and trade issues along with topics on the tax system. Also included are issues related to fashion, health, and civil information.

The print version or tabloid, to be first released in May, will count on 60 thousand copies, with 16 pages, eight pages will be dedicated only to ads and it will be published on a monthly basis for the time being. The online version www.ofertas.cu will be available over the next few days.

Advertising has mostly been foreign to Cubans for decades. In the 1980´s an ad magazine called Opina became popular among Cubans but it disappeared. Later, a tourist-aimed radio station began to air ads and still does. Some specialized trade and tourism magazines have also advertized major Cuban products like cigars, rums and hotels. More recently, the telephone guide brings a limited number of ads. But other initiatives have made their bit as well, particularly on-line platforms designed abroad, and locally printed advertisements promoting private businesses.

The ACN Ofertas initiative surfaces in a new scenario marked by the new information technologies and with some competition already in the field, in an effort to provide Cubans, either in the business sector or not, with an offer that may be of their interest and on a safe and legal basis, as the agency director pointed out.

 havana-live-nba-cubaHAVANA, 7 April The NBA will host a basketball development camp in Cuba later this month, making it the first major American sports league to conduct official business there since the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.

The four-day clinic in Havana, which starts on April 23, will be sponsored by the NBA and FIBA, basketball’s international governing body. The camp will be led by the Cuban men’s and women’s national teams, former NBA players Steve Nash and Dikembe Mutombo and former WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro.

 In addition, the league plans to invite two players and one coach from Cuba to an upcoming Basketball Without Borders camp, a community outreach program. It also will send Orlando Magic coach James Borrego and Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, among other NBA assistant coaches and team executives, for a training camp with the Cuban national teams.

NBA officials said that the league initiated discussions with FIBA and the Cuban Basketball Federation about a camp in Cuba’s capital shortly after President Barack Obama said in December that the U.S. and Cuba had agreed to restore diplomatic ties that had been on hold since 1961.

“It all came together pretty quickly,” said NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, the top executive from the league office in the NBA’s delegation there. “We hope this is the beginning of a long and positive relationship with the Cuban Basketball Federation.”

The NBA isn’t as popular in Cuba as Major League Baseball, which likely will play an exhibition game there early next year, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told The Wall Street Journal last month. The New York Cosmos soccer team is also set to play a game there on June 2 against the Cuban national team.

But there is a history of basketball on the island. Cuba won the bronze medal in men’s basketball at the 1972 Olympics—the same year that the Soviet Union famously beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game after a series of controversial call—but it last played in the Olympics in 1980.

The NBA has had two Cuban-born players, according to the league’s records. Andrés Guibert was the first, playing 22 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. He was followed by Lazaro Borrell, who played 17 games with the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1999-2000 season.

But the immediate goal of the NBA’s trip there this month isn’t to identify the league’s next Cuban-born players, Tatum said. “This trip is about growing the game globally,” he said.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/nba-to-host-development-camp-in-cuba-1428361201

 havana-live-us-map-companiesHAVANA, 6 April (Reuters) – U.S. companies can expect the same treatment as those from the rest of the world, receiving neither special benefits nor punishment, if there is a further commercial opening between Cuba and the United States, Cuba’s foreign trade minister said.

“U.S. business people will enjoy the same treatment that is offered to the rest of the world that has ties with the island today,” Rodrigo Malmierca, the minister of foreign trade and investment, said in an interview published in official Cuban media on Monday.

“It’s true that we will view positively, once the U.S. laws permit it, that they will be able to trade and invest. But that does not imply a preferential treatment,” Malmierca said.

The United States and Cuba announced in December they would restore diplomatic relations and seek to normalize trade and travel that were disrupted more than 50 years ago during the Cold War.

U.S. President Barack Obama has relaxed some parts of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba. Although he has authority to do more, he needs the Republican-controlled Congress to remove the embargo definitively.

The opening has generated tremendous interest from U.S. companies looking to crack a market that has long been closed, but even with a relaxation of the embargo U.S. companies need an agreement from the Cuban government or a Cuban state company to do business on the Caribbean island.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Ted Botha)

havana-live-puerto-marielCubaHAVANA, Apr 4  (Prensa Latina)  Cuba has received more than 300 formal requests to settle in the Special Development Zone Mariel (ZEDM), it was reported today in an online business forum prior to the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama.

The online-real-time exchange with managers and Cuban officials focused on the topics to be addressed at the II Business Summit of the Americas, including food security and agribusiness, integration and financial inclusion, economic empowerment of women, energy, infrastructure, logistics and connectivity, innovation and information technology.

To a number of questions and comments on ZEDM, General Director Ana Teresa Igarza replied that requests received are in the process of preparing their respective documentations.

Projects approved are in the process of commercial register and will be announced once they are established in the zone, destined to become Cuba’s commercial port to the world; inasmuch as ZEDM is the result of the island’s effort to boost foreign investment and update its economic model.

Igarza added that the area provides spaces for various industry branches and includes the provision of modern services.

The new container terminal at Mariel is managed by the world’s leading company PSA, from Singapore, and has a development strategy including its extension to a maximum of two thousand 400 meters of quay, an annual operational capacity of three million containers, and its specialization as trans shipment port.

havana-live-Former Cuban President Fidel Castro talks to President of Cuba's University Students Federation Randy Perdomo during a meeting in HavanaHAVANA, 4 April (Reuters BY DANIEL TROTTA) – Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, 88, appeared in public “full of vitality” for the first time in more than a year on Monday, greeting a delegation of Venezuelans, official media reported on Saturday.

It was his first known appearance outside his home since Cuba in December agreed to normalize relations with the United States, Castro’s longtime adversary.

Official media showed images of a seated Castro shaking hands with the visiting Venezuelans through the window of his vehicle, wearing a baseball cap and a windbreaker.

There was no explanation why five days passed before the encounter was reported in Cuba.

He met at a school with 33 Venezuelans, who were on a solidarity mission to Cuba, for about 90 minutes. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, oil-rich Venezuela has become Communist Cuba’s closest ally and chief benefactor.

Castro impressed the Venezuelans with a firm, long handshake and a lucid mind, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported in a writer’s first-person account.

Castro relayed “multiple details about life in Venezuela, especially now that this great nation has become the bull’s eye for imperial greed,” the report said, in apparent reference to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela that declared the South American nation a national security threat.

“Fidel is full of vitality,” the report said.

Castro’s last previous public sighting came on Jan. 8, 2014, at the opening of a Havana cultural center sponsored by one of his favorite Cuban artists, Alexis Leyva, alias Kcho.

In December 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, announced they would re-establish diplomatic ties, opening a new era in the previously turbulent relations that arose after the Castros came to power in 1959.

Fidel Castro stepped down due to illness provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008, handing off to his younger brother Raul, 83. Fidel writes an occasional newspaper column, receives dignitaries at home, and rarely appears in public.

His current role in policy-making is unknown. Many Cubans presume Raul Castro consults with his brother on major decisions, and Fidel Castro’s long silence after the December announcement raised questions about his health and whether he agreed with the rapprochement with the Americans.

 havana-live-obama-raulHAVANA, 4 April US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro will have an “interaction” during the next week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11, an American official says.

“Clearly President Obama knew when he made the decision to go to the summit, and he knew that Cuba had been invited to the summit… that there would be an interaction,” US State Department official Roberta Jacobson said at the Brookings Institution on Friday.

The brief meeting will be the first between the two presidents since Obama announced late last year to resume ties with Cuba.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962.

The two countries became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

On December 17, 2014, Obama announced that the US would start talks with Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in American foreign policy towards the communist country in over 50 years.

“Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world,” Obama said in a statement announcing his decision.

Jacobson said Friday, “The leaders are together a lot of the time. And so there will be an interaction with Raul Castro”.

However, she did not elaborate on whether any meeting will be held and, if so, what would be its nature.

“So I don’t know exactly what kind of an interaction that will be. But they’ve obviously already spoken on the phone… and there’s been a lot of interaction since then at a lower level.”

Also, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf cast doubt on the possibility of opening of embassies in Havana and Washington before the next week summit due to the thaw in US-Cuba relations. “It’s not a lot of time, let’s put it that way.”

Washington and Havana have already held three rounds of talks since January to restore diplomatic ties.
http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/04/04/404608/US-Obama-Castro-to-have-interaction

 havana-live-maleconHAVANA, 4 April Americans are flocking to Cuba by the tens of thousands this year. Next year it may be millions.

The architecture of Old Havana has lasted hundreds of years, but will it survive the onslaught of tourists and rampart commercialism that so despoils other Latin American capitals?

Most Americans will marvel at the magnificently preserved pre-revolutionary building and the colonial architecture dating back centuries.

But they will also see thousands of decrepit structures that are falling down and badly kept. In other cities, these crumbling vacant lots, behind magnificent facades, would be quickly replaced by modern monstrosities.

What most visitors do not understand is that the Castro brothers have treated Old Havana as an archeological and historic site — the finest and largest example of Colonial architecture in the Americas.

UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982.

The government does not have the money to restore all the old buildings at this time, so they are forced to leave them vacant and crumbling until they get around to it. They are making great progress — The Plaza Vieja is completely restored on all sides with splendid arch-covered walkways all around.

But other buildings are not so fortunate. The government is also committed to keeping many of the poor people who live in the historical district in their homes while restoration goes on around them. This is an anomaly among historic districts around the world. havana-live-havana   havana-live-havana-old-entrance   havana-live-havana  havana-live-havanahttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-fleetwood/will-cuba-survive-the-americanization-of-havana_b_7000828.html

 havana-live-real-estate Ordinary Cubans start to buy and sell their homes, and authorities dust off plans to develop a luxury vacation-home market for foreigners.

HAVANA, 3 April  (by Michael Allen and Kejal Vyas ) Listed at $1.2 million, the penthouse has broad terraces, marble floors and stunning waterfront views stretching from the Darth Vader-style Russian Embassy to Meyer Lansky’s old Riviera hotel.

That might seem pricey for a Communist country whose average worker earns around $20 a month. But owner John Jefferis, a 57-year-old hotelier from Bermuda, says his target buyer belongs to a different demographic altogether.havana-live-penthouse

“There are very few apartments that can be legally purchased by foreigners, and when there’s a limited supply of something, usually there’s a premium for the price,” says Mr. Jefferis, who adds that jet-setters like his expat neighbors here can probably afford to splurge. “It’s not their first or second or third home, put it like that.”

It is all part of a real-estate revolution sweeping Cuba. More than five decades after Fidel Castro seized power here, ordinary Cubans are starting to accumulate real wealth by buying and selling their homes. Authorities are dusting off plans to develop a luxury vacation-home market for foreigners. And a diplomatic overture between Washington and Havana is fueling a frenzy of speculation over what might happen here if Americans can legally buy real estate again.

“You can’t imagine how many calls we’ve been getting from U.S. citizens,” said Yad Aguiar, who co-founded the Ontario-based Point2Cuba.com in 2011, one of several sites that have popped up in recent years to connect prospective buyers and sellers.

For now, the 54-year-old embargo remains in place, meaning Americans can’t buy property here, or even travel to the island as tourists. And Cuban law bars nonresidents from owning homes outside a few limited experimental developments. But that isn’t stopping some foreigners from trying to wriggle through loopholes to get their hands on real estate now in the hopes of striking it rich.

A view from the Habana Palace in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood, where foreigners other than Americans can legally buy and sell apartments. The penthouse is listed for $1.2 million.
A view from the Habana Palace in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood, where foreigners other than Americans can legally buy and sell apartments. The penthouse is listed for $1.2 million.
That is especially true for Cuban-Americans who fled the country after the revolution and are now starting to exert an increasingly important economic influence here. Exempt from U.S. travel restrictions, they can visit relatives here and funnel them money to fix up fading homes—or even buy one for themselves using a family member’s name and dealing in cash.

“Lots of Miami Cubans are just flying there and buying—people with $300,000 or $400,000 or a million under their mattresses,” says Hugo M. Cancio, a Cuban-American entrepreneur who is launching a quarterly real-estate publication in Cuba.

Nereida Margarita Álvarez, who runs a bed-and-breakfast out of her family’s stately, century-old mansion in the once-exclusive Vedado neighborhood, says she was recently approached by a Cuban offering $400,000 for the place, which, to be sure, could use a new paint job and some plaster work on its 18-foot ceilings.
She says she turned down the offer, which she assumed had to have been financed from abroad. “I don’t know where he got the money,” she says. “No Cuban has that kind of money.”

 havana-live-real-estateNereida Margarita Álvarez, who runs a bed-and-breakfast out of her family’s 1901 mansion, recently turned down a $400,000 cash offer.
Next door, a Spanish interior designer in an elegant cardigan says he dropped $200,000 on a dilapidated six-bedroom house with good bones and servants’ quarters in the back, and plans to spend at least another $100,000 on renovations.

The Spaniard, who couldn’t buy the 1920s-era house himself, says he recently discovered a Cuban great-uncle who agreed to put the property in his name. He says he has already made a lot of money renovating historical buildings in China, but “when I told my dad I was coming here he said, ‘Oh my God, another Communist country.’ ”

Whether or not Cuba can follow China’s path to prosperity is still an open question. The Communist government introduced a few isolated market reforms in the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed and cut off the generous subsidies that kept Cuba afloat.
After taking over presidential powers from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006, Raúl Castro gave the process a new boost, expanding the types of business that private citizens could conduct and lifting a ban on cellphones. In 2011, in what could prove a major turning point, the government opened the door to Cubans to freely buy and sell their own houses.BN-HS298_0402cu_J_20150402161623

“The net worth of the Cuban people has gone up quite a bit,” says Antonio Zamora, a Bay of Pigs veteran and former general counsel of the Cuban American National Foundation, a political action group that fought to keep an embargo in place. Now 73, the Miami resident sees major changes sweeping the island and is thinking of retiring here one day.

Most Cubans lack Internet access thanks to controls and underdeveloped infrastructure. So locals looking to buy and sell a house turn to El Papelito, a $1 pamphlet with classified real-estate ads that is sold on the streets of Havana.

A recent edition had 24 pages, having quadrupled in size over the past several months, underscoring the kind of market activity that would have been unimaginable here a decade ago.

It lists everything from cramped $5,000 apartments in picturesque Old Havana to $1 million mansions in upscale quarters like Miramar. It also has listings selling items ranging from televisions to massage services and even has advertising for local restaurants and photocopy shops.BN-HS297_0402cu_J_20150402161606

The pamphlet has become a key resource for residents like retiree Ada Nueva, who wants to sell her small second-floor apartment in Vedado for $23,000. She says she wants to move to a cheaper apartment in the same area and maybe one day use the money to open a shop to generate income.

Meanwhile, artist Annerys Velasco, who shares a 3,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion with several family members, is trying to sell for around $160,000. It is too costly to maintain the house, which is pockmarked by broken floor tiles and chipped paint, Ms. Velasco said, so she and her siblings hope to divide the money and move into their own smaller places. By law, citizens can own a primary residence and a vacation house.BN-HS295_0402cu_J_20150402161606

In December, Presidents Barack Obama and Castro announced an agreement to restore diplomatic ties, and the U.S. has followed up by making it easier for Americans to travel here to pursue educational and sports activities, among other things. Under new rules, U.S. residents can send up to $2,000 every three months to people on the island—four times the previous limit.

On Thursday, San Francisco-based home-rental service Airbnb Inc. began offering accommodations to licensed U.S. travelers in Cuba, using the island’s wide network of private guesthouses.

The economic woes of Cuba’s latest patron, Venezuela, have given new urgency to the search for a financial lifeline from abroad. Last year, the government launched a renewed push for foreign investment, loosening restrictions on the areas of investment and allowing full ownership in some cases. A major priority is to attract more capital to the tourism sector, which long ago passed sugar as the biggest generator of foreign exchange here.

Cuba already has a string of hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners and often run by international chains such as Melia Hotels International of Spain.
The government has just completed a marina in Varadero, with docking room for some 400 yachts, a shopping center as well as restaurants and cafes. Images of Che Guevara and other revolutionary iconography are noticeably absent. And there is even a bowling alley, a sign that Cuba is awaiting a wave of tourists from up north.

“Of course, it’s made for the Americans,” Sebastiaan A.C. Berger, director at Guernsey-incorporated CEIBA Investments Ltd., one of the biggest foreign investors in tourism and commercial real estate in Cuba, said of the marina. “If you had asked me half a year ago I would’ve said the marina would become a white elephant because they laid all of that cement and no one was going to be there to bring their boats,” said Mr. Berger.

Cuba has even greater ambitions in the works. Plans call for unprecedented sales of vacation properties to foreigners, built around high-end golf courses, something Fidel Castro all but banned for years after the revolution as a bourgeois pursuit. It hasn’t been smooth. Most of the foreign companies that announced golf resorts in 2011 have pulled out or disbanded, and Cuban authorities arrested top executives of one firm on corruption charges.

Still, last year, a company controlled by the Tourism Ministry called Grupo Empresarial Extrahotelero Palmares SA quietly established a joint venture with British real-estate investor London and Regional Properties Ltd. to develop a $350 million golf resort less than two hour’s drive east of Havana.
The development plans to market up to 1,000 villas, townhouses and apartments to foreigners and locals, along with a boutique hotel, a tennis academy and an 18-hole golf course, according to Desmond Taljaard, head of hospitality for the private group owned by London’s billionaire Livingstone brothers.

Mr. Taljaard said the project is “on schedule” and should take five to 10 years to complete. “So far we’ve been met with enthusiastic cooperation,” he said.

The government proved less than enthusiastic about foreign ownership in the early years of the revolution. By 1962, Fidel Castro had nationalized most private companies and seized nearly all real estate belonging to foreigners without compensation. The government also grabbed property belonging to Cubans who fled the country, although those who stayed got to keep their homes. Some skeptics think that track record should weigh heavily on prospective buyers now.

“There’s going to be some unpleasantness at the root of any commercial venture in Cuba,” says John S. Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc. “Cuba is littered with projects that are announced and never happened.”

Indeed, historical grievances may yet trip up some of the proposed developments. In 2011, when a consortium including Canadian indigenous people called Standing Feather International announced preliminary plans to build a $400 million golf course community in Guardalavaca, a consultant for the Cuban exile family that claims ownership to the site fired off a letter.

“While my clients fully share your assessment of this area’s majestic natural beauty, they actually do so from the perspective of being members of the family that has owned this Cuban property since 1857,” wrote Nicolas Gutierrez Jr., a Miami-based consultant for the Sanchez-Hill family, which owned large sugar plantations and other property.

The Sanchez-Hills never heard back from Standing Feather, and Graham Cooke, who was to be the golf course architect, says the consortium “kind of dissolved.”

Representatives of Standing Feather weren’t reachable.

For now, a good measure of Cuba’s attitude toward foreign property rights is a collection of three Mediterranean-style apartment buildings in Miramar, a quiet neighborhood of 1950s-style homes in the western Havana suburbs.
The developments, with names like Monte Carlo Palace and Habana Palace, were the product of a joint-venture between a state-owned company and members of Monaco’s Pastor family during the “special period” of economic distress after the breakup of the Soviet Union.BN-HS292_0402cu_J_20150402161606

According to a person familiar with the matter, the government initially thought the apartments, priced from under $100,000 to upwards of $400,000, would be too expensive to move very quickly. But foreign investors started buying in droves, including an Italian who snapped up 24 units, keeping two for himself and renting the rest to foreign executives for a fat profit. Eventually, government entities stepped in to buy the remaining unsold apartments to rent out themselves, worried they were leaving money on the table, this person says.

Mr. Jefferis, a one-time chairman of the Caribbean Hotel Association who owns hotels in Tobago and Bermuda, says he bought five of the units during the construction phase in 2001, including the penthouse now on the market. He says he paid $356,000 to cobble together three units into one showpiece, and then spent extra to build out marble interiors and to create a guest apartment he could rent out separately. The building has a 24-hour concierge, a parking garage and a rooftop pool.

He says his next-door neighbor in the building is Miguel Fluxá, head of the Grupo Iberostar hotel empire and one of Europe’s richest men. Mr. Jefferis doesn’t get to Cuba often these days, but when he does says he enjoys cruising the lightly trafficked streets in his vintage Mercedes. Crime is nearly nonexistent, he points out, and he doesn’t believe there is “any risk” of expropriation. “I’ve had the apartments for 15 years without any problems whatsoever,” he said.

An Italian citizen living one neighborhood over has a greater appetite for risk. Two years ago he purchased a house in the name of his Cuban wife. He knows that he will lose the place if they ever split, but he radiates confidence. He has already spent money to convert the property into a swanky open lounge and restaurant. “Many of us are here to stay,” he says. “But we’re also taking a bet because we know that the day this place opens up, it’s going to explode.”
PHOTOS: LISETTE POOLE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAl
http://www.wsj.com/articles/real-estate-revolution-hits-cuba-1428055201?tesla=y

Old-American-Car-Malecon-HavanaHAVANA,. 2 March   A couple of enterprising young men in Cuba have launched the closest thing the island will have to Uber for the time being — yotellevocuba.com. (Translated, “I will take you”).

It’s simply a way of contacting an organized community of drivers via email at this point, but with the state-run cellular provider ETECSA reportedly poised to start offering data packages on the island in the near future, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that such a site could look more like the real Uber down the road.
The founders say they have corralled a couple dozen independent drivers on the island with access to email (still a rarity, they admit) and for each fare request, customers will get a quote from three different drivers. “Hiring a taxi driver at YoTeLlevo is something special,” they write gushingly on the site. “You’re not hiring a driver, you are making a friend who has a taxi and can be your driver — even when you have to pay.”

Reached via email, the young CEO of Yotellevo — who works for a state-owned software company in a provincial city — said one of the main goals is to connect foreign tourists with drivers ahead of time so they know how much things will cost when they get there. He makes money off commissions from the drivers.
The young man, who asked to remain anonymous, says it’s just a team of three so far (him, his brother in Havana, and a friend), along with a cousin in Texas who registered the domain and is paying for the hosting. He says all the drivers are experienced ones — former accountants, retired pilots, ex-fishermen and the like — and are based all over the island. Lining up the drivers was not easy, he says.

“I’ve been in the streets convincing them, but also found some by emailing them directly,” he writes. “Of course many of them don’t have an email account. Also many of them are used to be hired the moment of the ride and are not willing to try us.
I’ve discovered some driver’s emails because they promote themselves at some listings sites (revolico, porlalivre, etc). Not all respond, but getting a response is a way of confirming they can use the emails and are willing to give our system a try. Also I check that they are nice people by exchanging emails with them and sharing a few rules.”

Keeping an app alive from the island, given the nature of the internet connection there, is also quite a chore.

“The conditions for the Internet access are precarious,” he says. “I use an account I have from my organization to surf the web and do some things I need to do, but of course this is under the hood. Also this connection is very slow and unstable (right now I’m using it to write to you). To access the server and do updates to the app, I ask for favors to a journalist friend of mine so I can use her account; I have to go to her house and connect from there, always in a hurry so I don’t consume much of her time.”

Godspeed, friends. Maybe there’s a Callejon Silicon bubbling up in Havana.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-norvell/an-uber-for-cuba_b_6987824.html

-1x-1HAVANA, 2  April  Airbnb operates in 190 countries and 34,000 cities around the world, but its latest addition could be a momentous one.

The online lodgings marketplace said today it now offers properties for rent in Cuba, becoming one of the first U.S. companies to establish itself there since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December that they would restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years.
Expanding an Internet service to Cuba means overcoming a host of challenges, including spotty Web access, limited payment options, and the still-ongoing U.S. embargo. So Airbnb is starting small: U.S. travelers can choose from about 1,000 listings throughout the country, mostly concentrated in Havana.
The company says its model—stay in somebody’s home, pay less than a hotel would charge—will help it facilitate travel that won’t pave over Cuba’s unique character, forged by decades of isolation from its northern neighbor. “Think about the big hotel chains coming in, with mass development,” says Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief technology officer. “The idea here is to support growth in travel that isn’t disruptive, that actually celebrates and preserves Cuba as a distinct destination.”

-1x-1This Havana room rents on Airbnb for $30 a night.

The Cuban properties on the site, their photos sprinkled with glimpses of the nation’s famously ancient cars, show off a broad range of colonial architecture and are available at extremely low rates.
The Home Lunass offers a private room and bathroom a five-minute walk from Old Havana for $34 a night, including free breakfast. (Dinner costs extra.) Next to the double bed is an old cassette player. “Hello to my potential guests,” writes the owner, who gives her name as Yamilee. She says she rents rooms to foreigners full-time and used to practice medicine.
Like other U.S. websites, Airbnb had been forced to block IP addresses that originate in Cuba, in accordance with federal law. On Jan. 20, when the U.S. relaxed restrictions on Cuban travel, Airbnb initiated talks with the U.S. Department of State and the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces trade sanctions, to clear its expansion into the country. The government agencies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In February and March, the company sent employees on trips to Cuba to meet with potential hosts and learn more about the existing network of casas particulares.
That’s the local term for vacation rentals by homeowners like Yamilee who have long done business with tourists from countries such as Canada and Spain, typically relying on word of mouth and, sometimes, a borrowed Internet connection from a local business. In Cuba, “the Airbnb style of travel was already thriving,” says Molly Turner, the company’s head of civic partnerships.detay-on-peut-desormais-louer-des-logements-airbnb-a-cuba

Only about 4 percent of Cuban homes have Internet access of any kind, so Airbnb had to find local intermediaries to help manage listings and connect hosts with customers. That led to the problem of paying hosts, most of whom asked for cash. That’s not how Airbnb works; travelers pay online, and the site takes a 3 percent cut and transfers the rest to a host’s bank account.
So Airbnb had to contract a licensed money remitter to make payments on its behalf. The company chose Florida-based VaCuba, which specializes in sending cash and gifts to families in Cuba.
“What Airbnb has done is quite creative,” says Collin Laverty, founder of Cuba Educational Travel, which organizes U.S. exchange programs. “ ‘Cuba’ is really a dirty word in the banking world.”

As Airbnb tries to expand its Cuban network, it’s likely to find some hosts unaccustomed to American travel standards—among other things, many homes don’t have hot water. The company also remains limited by U.S. laws. It can’t show Cuban properties to users outside the U.S. or directly help Cuban hosts design ads for their rentals.
And although the U.S. has relaxed travel requirements for people visiting Cuba for reasons such as professional research, educational activities, and “support for the Cuban people,” it still bans visits that are explicitly for tourism.
Airbnb’s first step into Cuba is likely only the beginning, says Dan Restrepo, a former adviser to President Obama on Latin America and the Caribbean who has consulted for Airbnb on its Cuba expansion:
“So little has happened between the U.S. and Cuba for so long, I don’t think anyone really knows how this will develop.” But, he says, “this creates connectivity between two peoples in a way that is outside the reach of government on both sides.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-02/airbnb-is-now-available-in-cuba

havana-live-chess-player HAVANA, 1 April  A new national poll of Cuban Americans shows that their support for the White House’s new Cuba policy has grown in the three months since the historic announcement, and now 51 percent say they support the effort to begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Forty percent said they disagreed with the new policy and 9 percent didn’t respond or said they didn’t know, according to the poll by Bendixen & Amandi International.

Cuban Americans living outside Florida have embraced the new policy much more than those residing in the Sunshine State, according to the poll. Attitudes also diverge between older Cuban Americans born on the island and younger generations.

Forty-nine percent of Cuban Americans living in Florida said they disagreed with the effort to normalize relations while 41 percent said they agreed. However, 69 percent of Cuban Americans living outside the exile stronghold of Florida said they agreed with the new policy.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, will be unveiled Wednesday in New York at the sold-out Cuba Opportunity Summit, a conference for senior level business executives interested in exploring business opportunities in Cuba.

Bendixen & Amandi International polled 400 Cuban Americans 18 and older March 20-25 in English or Spanish on their attitudes toward the new policy. It includes renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba, allowing more Americans to travel to the island, raising remittance levels, cooperating with Cuba on areas of mutual interest such as environmental protection, and increased commercial ties even as the U.S. trade embargo against the island remains in place.

The methodology for the new poll, which was designed and financed by Bendixen & Amandi International, is similar to that used in a flash poll by the firm that was commissioned by the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and the Tampa Bay Times shortly after the Dec. 17 announcement that the United States and Cuba would work toward normalizing relations.

In the December poll, 48 percent of the Cuban Americans polled said that they disagreed with President Barack Obama’s announcement, while 44 percent said they agreed.

Fernand Amandi, a principal of the polling firm, said the seven-point shift toward agreement in the most recent poll surprised him. But he added that, “In the immediate aftermath [of the policy shift] many people were stunned into silence by the nature of the announcement.”

When it came to a question of whether the president’s announcement was good for people on the island or good for the United States, respondents were more pessimistic about the policy’s efficacy for the United States.

When asked directly, only 7 percent said it was good for the United States, perhaps indicative of a nagging feeling by some in the Cuban-American community that Cuba got the better end of the deal. However, 25 percent volunteered that it was good for both Cuba and the United States.

Twenty-nine percent said the announcement was good for people on the island, but 28 percent also volunteered that it was good for neither the United States nor the Cuban people.

Those surveyed were more positive when it came to easing restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba. Fifty-six percent said they favored the move, while 35 percent said they opposed it. In December, only 47 percent said they favored easing travel.

Those living in Florida also favored freer travel, with 46 percent in agreement and 43 percent opposed. Overall, 67 percent of those polled said they planned on traveling to Cuba in the near future.

Once again, there was a split on the travel question between younger generations and older Cuba-Americans born in Cuba. Of those born in Cuba, 75 percent said they had no Cuba travel plans in the near future and 83 percent of those 65 and older said they wouldn’t be traveling to Cuba any time soon.

In contrast, 49 percent of those aged 18 to 29 said they planned to travel to Cuba soon, and 25 percent of those aged 30 to 49 said they had near-term travel plans.

Older Cuban-Americans 65 years-plus also were more supportive of the embargo, with 45 percent saying it should continue and 36 percent saying it shouldn’t (19 percent said they didn’t know or didn’t respond). In contrast, 51 percent of those 18 to 29 said the embargo should end, and 56 percent in the group of 30- to 49-year-olds said it shouldn’t continue.

“The opposition to the new policy is concentrated in older, Cuban-born exiles who came in the early days of the exile experience,” Amandi said.

Despite the differences of opinion within the community, “what continues to unite Cuban-Americas is their antipathy for the current Cuban regime and the Castro brothers,” said Amandi.

“It’s no longer surprising that a majority of Cuban Americans support a new course on Cuba policy; it’s exactly what the trend lines have been pointing toward for years,” said Ric Herrero, executive director of #CubaNow, whose mission is inspiring a new conversation about Cuba.

“Cuban Americans, like all Americans, recognize that we can do more to empower the Cuban people and advance the cause of human rights through engagement rather than isolation,” he said.

Even though the poll indicates shifting attitudes, the Cuban-American delegation in Congress has lined up in strong opposition to the president’s new Cuba policy.

“The most important poll takes place every two years and that is the election,” said Frank Calzon, executive director of The Center for a Free Cuba, an Arlington, Virginia, institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a democratic transition in Cuba. “There are three Cuban-American senators and four members of the House. They represent the views of the Cuban-American community, not a poll.”

South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen agreed. “The ultimate test of any policy is on Election Day and the Cuban-American community has shown strong support for the embargo and a policy which fights for the rights of the Cuban people,” she said. “What is undeniable is the President’s concessions have not led to an increase in freedom on the island nor has it ensured that fundamental basic human rights are respected by the communist dictatorship in Havana.”

For the first time, the poll also asked questions about the new commercial opening toward Cuba that the Obama administration is trying to promote.

Fifty-eight percent said that companies owned by Cuban Americans living in the United States should be able to sell their products in Cuba, and 56 percent said that businesses owned and operated by independent Cuban entrepreneurs should be able to sell their products in the United States.

The new Cuba policy allowed Americans to provide funding for independent businesses owned and operated by Cubans on the island.

Sixty-six percent of poll respondents agreed that they should be able to help the independent businesses of friends and family on the island by providing funds, and 62 percent said U.S. companies should be able to sell their products in Cuba.

“On some of the corporate investment questions you saw the two communities come together,” said Amandi, with both long-term exiles and younger Cuban-Americans agreeing.

However, when asked if they intended to invest in Cuba — if it becomes legal — 72 percent of those polled said no. Among the main reasons they cited: too risky; Cuba is still communist; don’t have the money; lack of interest; and the Castro brothers are still in power.

POLL OF CUBAN-AMERICANS

Do you agree or disagree with President Obama’s announcement to begin normalizing relations with Cuba?

All respondents:

Agree: 51 percent

Disagree: 40 percent

Don’t know/no answer: 9 percent

Respondents living in Florida:

Agree: 41 percent

Disagree: 49 percent

Don’t know/no answer: 10 percent

Respondents living in the rest of the U.S.:

Agree: 69 percent

Disagree: 23 percent

Don’t know/no answer: 8 percent

Source: Bendixen & Amandi International
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article17056742.html#storylink=cpy

 havana-live-yachtHAVANA, 31. Mar. Tens of thousands of American yachts could descend on Cuba if US President Barack Obama authorises boat travel to the island, which is not ready for the influx, an official said on Wednesday (Apr 1).

Pleasure cruises from the United States to Cuba have virtually halted since former president George W. Bush cracked down on private boat trips in 2004 with an executive order that expanded the government’s authority to stop unauthorised travel out of US waters.

That “is the only impediment today” stopping a mass arrival of American yachts and pleasure cruisers, said Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, commodore of the Ernest Hemingway International Nautical Club in Havana.

“The first year the executive order restricting boat trips is lifted, tens of thousands of vessels could come,” he told AFP. But Cuba “is not prepared (for) the large influx” and will have to take action to develop its port infrastructure, he said.

“There are no marinas prepared, there are no shipyards or nautical supply stores.” He said a mass arrival of US yachts could force the communist island to develop the sector, however.

He also predicted record-breaking attendance at the next Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament, to be held in May. Named for the US Nobel Prize-winning author, who lived in Cuba for two decades, the tournament has been held since 1950.

Since the US and Cuba announced a historic rapprochement last December after more than five decades of enmity rooted in the Cold War, the White House has eased travel restrictions on 12 categories of visits, including trips for journalism, education, the arts and sports — but not tourism.

Currently, travellers from the United States to Cuba must take chartered “humanitarian” flights, since Washington has barred commercial flights to the island since 1962.

Diaz Escrich said local officials in Key West, Florida, have expressed interest in re-establishing ferry service between the US and Cuba. The ferry across the Florida Straits was popular with US tourists until it was scrapped in the wake of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

– AFP/de

1797520_357633554429466_3460296829630210547_nHAVANA,31 Mar. Cuban and U.S. delegations on Tuesday ended a preparatory meeting for holding future negotiations on human rights without setting a date, agenda or host for those talks.

The head of the Cuban delegation at the session in Washington, Foreign Ministry official Pedro Luis Pedroso, said at a news conference that the lack of details did not mean the negotiations would not be held. He said a decision on holding the talks would be reached during traditional diplomatic channels.

A U.S. government statement said only that both sides expressed a willingness to address a variety of topics at future talks.

The meeting took place as part of the effort announced by both nations in December to work to fully restore diplomatic ties after more than a half century of uneasy relations.

Earlier in the day, another Cuban delegate said the two sides held “a respectful, professional, civilized conversation.” Nevertheless, Anaysansi Rodriguez Camejo, Cuba’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told Cuban state television that the session underlined “that there are differences” on issues of human rights.

The U.S. has been expected to press Cuba to allow its citizens greater freedom of speech, assembly and political activity. Cuba has often criticized the United States for poverty, insufficient health care coverage and excessive police force.
http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/03/31/3718474/cuba-delegate-reports-civilized.html#storylink=cpy

havana-live-IAG-CargoHAVANA, 31 Mar.  From this summer, IAG Cargo is significantly boosting its Latin America network by launching a new route into Colombia and reopening its route into Cuba.

The new services will connect Cali and Medellín in Colombia and Havana in Cuba to IAG Cargo’s worldwide network of 350 destinations, and will bring the total of IAG Cargo gateways in Latin America to 19. Additionally, IAG Cargo is increasing the number of flights it offers to and from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic from five flights a week to daily, effective from April 1, 2015.

IAG Cargo will resume operations between its Madrid hub and Havana, Cuba. Commencing on June 1, 2015, IAG Cargo will operate services on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, totalling five weekly flights.

The new route from Madrid to the Colombian cities of Cali and Medellin, meanwhile, will operate as triangular flights between Madrid-Medellin-Cali-Madrid. Services will begin on July 3, 2015, and operate on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Both routes will be serviced by Airbus A330s and the flights are timed for good connections at Iberia’s T4 hub.

Steve Gunning, CEO at IAG Cargo, commented: “From pharmaceuticals to perishables Latin America is fast emerging as one of the most important international trade centres – both for production and consumption. From our Madrid hub we have already been able to offer businesses In Latin America and beyond some of the best connectivity options in the world, linking up markets from Asia Pacific all the way across Europe and into Latin America. These new services further enhance our excellent network proposition to and from this region and will be an important enabler of Latin America trade.”

IAG Cargo expects to see good export flows of flowers and fruits from Cali and Medellín and imports including books and clothes.

Cuba’s famous tobacco products, meanwhile, are expected to be amongst the main exports out of Havana, while imports should comprise perishables and mechanical goods. Havana is also an important stopover for the transhipment of goods including flowers, fruits and textiles.

On the Santo Domingo route meanwhile, IAG Cargo will continue to support the strong flows of general freight into the Dominican Republic and fruit and vegetables exiting it.

Through specialist products such as Constant Fresh (perishables) and Prioritise (express) IAG Cargo is well placed to support these flows, offering businesses in the region high-quality services that get goods to market on time and in optimum condition.
https://cubainsidetheworld.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/iag-cargo-to-reconnect-with-cuba/

 havana-live-lebanon-flagHAVANA,  Mar 31 (acn) Lebanese entrepreneurs in 10 economic sectors set up the Lebanon-Cuba Businessmen Council focusing on the investment and trade opportunities being offered by the island.
During a meeting at Beirut´s Chamber of Commerce, over 20 entrepreneurs, particularly young people, expressed their interest in exploring the Cuban market hoping to open fruitful bilateral business relations.

“We believe in Cuba and we are observing its potential; at present there are 30 thousand Lebanese migrants or Lebanese descendants there and this means that we share deep relations, said Council president Ali Kazma in the presence of Cuban ambassador to Beirut Rene Ceballo.
The Lebanese business community has big interest in investing in different Cuban sectors particularly tourism, the pharmaceutical industry, health, construction and trade. In May, a Lebanese delegation will travel to the island for exchange with Cuban entrepreneurs, the official said.

havana-live-oil-drilling-at-sunsetHAVANA, 31 Mar. (argusmedia) Cuba is seeking to revive an offshore drilling campaign through a roadshow to be held during a high-level western hemisphere conference in Panama on 10-11 April.
The move coincides with a thaw in diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, and the prospect of an end to a longstanding US economic embargo on Cuba that has forestalled US investment.

Havana´s bid to rekindle interest in offshore acreage also runs parallel to the opening of Mexico´s oil sector. A first-ever licensing round featuring Gulf of Mexico blocks in Mexican waters kicked off in December 2014.The Summit of the Americas will be attended by US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. Leaders of several major firms will attend the summit’s business session when the roadshow will be held.

“We will explain our results in deepwater exploration in recent years,” says Rafael Tenreyro, exploration director of Cuba´s state-run Cupet. “We will also explain our onshore and shallow water hydrocarbon potential, and new incentives for foreign investors.”Cuba previously offered 59 Gulf of Mexico blocks, but exploration stalled in 2012 after several foreign companies encountered dry holes.

Among the firms that failed to find commercial deposits in earlier exploration efforts were Spain’s Repsol in a consortium with India’s state-controlled ONGC and Norway’s Statoil; Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas and Venezuela’s state-owned PdV.Cuba’s national assembly approved a new investment code for the energy sector in March 2014 that allows foreign investors to negotiate tax rates with state agencies, with a levy of up to 22.5pc on profits, compared with a previous 25-50pc.

Oil companies from Russia, Canada and Australia are currently exploring and producing oil and gas from onshore and shallow water blocks.Cuba produces around 50,000 b/d of liquids and 20,000 boe/d of gas from onshore and shallow water reservoirs, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
A 2004 USGS assessment of the North Cuba basin and its three sub-basins estimated the total amount of undiscovered technically recoverable resources at 9.8 trillion ft3 of undiscovered gas, 4.6bn bl of crude oil, and 0.9bn bl of NGLs.

The island imports around 77,000 b/d of oil from close ally Venezuela on preferential terms.
http://www.argusmedia.com/News/Article?id=1016211

  havana-live-CubaKatHAVANA, 30 Mar. Brian Hall can still remember his grandmother’s stories of the ferry to Cuba. “She would tell stories of how wonderful it was,” Hall said. His grandmother would vacation in Havana.

“I would hear stories and see pictures. And just knowing it was 90 miles away, it didn’t make sense why we couldn’t go there.” Hall, a Jacksonville businessman, is now using that nostalgia — his and hopefully the public’s — to fuel his dream: Reinstating a ferry to Cuba.

The plan goes like this: Hall and his business partners have launched CubaKat, a passenger ferry service that would run from Marathon Key to Havana. (Leaving from Marathon rather than Key West only adds 15 minutes to the ferry trip, but cuts in half the driving time it would take to get from Miami to Key West, the common starting point for ferries.)

Hall said the company already has a used 200-passenger ferry under contract from a seller in the Bahamas, the Sea Wind. Once the first ferry sets sail, Hall said within six months he hopes to add a second boat.
After that, Hall — who is also part of Fort Lauderdale-based catamaran manufacturers KonaCat — said the plan is to introduce 100-passenger, high-speed catamarans between the islands. “Our plan is to get the speed below three hours,” Hall said.

“We hope to see in the next five years having 10 boats going back and forth.” There would be many benefits to having a ferry to Cuba again. One benefit is the ferries could carry about 28 cars each.
(Although bringing cars won’t happen initially, as they’re not legal luggage yet.) Using a ferry would also be more affordable than a flight. A round-trip charter flight can cost between $429 and $499.

A high-speed ferry costs closer to $300, which takes about 4.5 hours to make the trip. But the real kicker for flights is the luggage costs: Some companies charge $2 for every pound over 44 pounds, plus fees for additional baggage, a problem for travelers trying to bring goods to family and friends in Cuba.
http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2015/03/30/jacksonville-businessman-pushing-for-ferry-to-cuba.html

havana-live-young-cuban 4HAVANA, 30 Mar. (By Travis Mannon)  In December 2014, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro agreed that both governments should begin taking steps to ease the 53-year-old strained relationship between the neighboring countries.

Though Obama and Castro still stand far apart on many issues, good faith measures have signaled that both sides are serious about opening up diplomatic relations.
In addition to proposing a plan to open an embassy in Havana, the Obama administration announced that it will allow Americans to travel to Cuba for non-tourism-related reasons in 12 categories, including journalism, educational and professional research, humanitarian aid and official government business. Previously, this type of travel required case-by-case approval.

The U.S. also announced it will open up telecommunications access to the isolated island. In a country where only about 5% of the population can access the global Internet, expanded interaction with the outside world could mean big changes for Cuba. For a country that has been held back for more than half a century, many Cubans are eagerly awaiting the change

. The shift will be felt most acutely by young Cubans. How will they feel about Americans suddenly showing up at their doorsteps? Do they think the changes in diplomatic relations will have an effect on their day-to-day lives? And if so, what do they imagine those changes will look like? We asked young Cubans in Havana these very questions.

Their answers were illuminating and show a side of Cuba that most Americans have never had the chance to see. Some people were too embarrassed to speak to us. A surprising number seemed afraid of the consequences if they did.
Not that it’s necessarily illegal to discuss sensitive topics with a journalist or an American — they just weren’t sure what would happen to them.
More than a few said they were afraid of being arrested if they talked or had their picture taken — one man pretended to put handcuffs on himself when asked why he didn’t want his picture taken.

Arian, 20, professional dancer from Santa Clara havana-live-young-cuban“I have a lot of family that are American citizens. A lot of my family that got citizenship have been there for a number of years. But I have not visited. It’s an impressive country, but I will stay in my country.
“I think that the changes are great for Cuba and the U.S. Both will benefit, but only up to a certain point. I don’t think either of us should change our thinking or our politics just because of this simple [economic] change.

I think we can reach an arrangement where we can make our economy better while maintaining our thinking and our political views. “Everything can change from tourists coming to Cuba. We’re going to have more direct communication with them. We don’t know the Internet. We don’t know many things that will help us work a little better, to get more information.

But to change our culture? We are an intelligent people, so I don’t think we should change our culture. Our culture is beautiful. I don’t think that we have to change that.”

Amanda, 20, psychology and education student at the University of Education in Havanahavana-live-young-cuban“I think that the opening of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba will benefit us a lot.
I think there should be some type of relationship between our countries that nourishes each. We can enrich ourselves from your culture and you can enrich yourselves from our culture.Having the U.S. as an economic partner will benefit us a lot, since the U.S. is a huge world power. And we are country that is, well, a little small. We need that type of relationship.”

Benni, 32, a parking attendant, and Zaili, 19, unemployed, both from Havana Viejahavana-live-young-cuban1Zaili: “Well, my friend, I can tell you something — I think we are better than you!”
 Benni: “We are better!”
Zaili: “We are thinking about these changes. Cuban lives are beginning to change. We think things are going to change for the better.” Benni: “I hope so. I hope they’re for good. I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Leandro, 20, math student at the University of Havanahavana-live-young-cuban 2jpg“I don’t dislike Americans. I cannot tell you much more because I haven’t had any contact with them. … I hope the changes are for good. I hope the situation gets better. That’s my hope. Cultures will mix. It’s always good to meet new people, so I don’t know why there is anything wrong with that.”

Greta, philosophy student at the University of Havana and Ernel, computer technician from Havanahavana-live-young-cuban 3Ernel: “Various sectors of U.S. society and government are interested in the improving relationships. And from [the Cuban side], the leaders in our society are interested as well, without undermining principles and important ethical points. But yeah, there is a lot of willingness to collaborate and improve economic relationships.”

Greta: “We have also been very influenced by U.S. culture, even if people don’t think so. The shows that you see on TV and movies, maybe not all of them, but a huge majority of them are American. And we listen to a lot of American music. American culture has strong foundations here in Cuba.”
Ernel: “There are a lot of Cubans that follow the American way of doing things.”

Ariadne, 25, accountant from Havana Viejahavana-live-young-cuban 4“[Americans] are people like us. At work, their home life, they’re the same. There’s no difference. If they live in one country or the other, it’s the same. They’re the same people. Whether or not they are good or bad, I cannot tell you, because I don’t know many Americans.”

Maielis, 25, Literature professor at the University of Havanahavana-live-young-cuban 5“The relationship of Cubans with Americans, at least in my experience, is mostly through the movies and TV shows.
It is a culture that does not seem too distant. Actually, it seems to me that a lot of phrases are mixing lately in the language and the ways young people in Cuba are communicating.

Sometimes I even catch myself, and it makes me feel guilty to use American phrases to say things that I cannot find a way to say in Spanish. I think that is mostly an influence from TV shows.
I watch a lot of shows in English, sometimes without even knowing what they’re saying. “There are going to be a lot of changes and I hope for good. I think they’re going to be positive, the changes.

We’re going to start participating in a more active way in this globalized world. We were experiencing it and consuming in a very unique way. We were not completely isolated from the world.”

Adonis, 26, studying Chinese at University of Havana, from La Lisa, Havanahavana-live-young-cuban 6“As far as I know, Cuban people have very good opinions about Americans. There have been problems between governments, you know, but Cuban people are very friendly and sociable, as are Americans
. I think that President Obama is trying to make the relationship closer. I think it has to be done, and it should have been done a long time ago. I see the progress in this.”

Pedro, 34, math professor at the University of Havanahavana-live-young-cuban 7“My prediction is that things are going to get better, but slowly. I think that many people think that there are going to be immediate changes with relation to the U.S. and I think that there are going to be some, but little by little. Slowly. That’s what I see.”

Name withheld, from Havanahavana-live-young-cuban 8

“What do I think? I have American friends. It’s good that they come and get close to us, that they come to Cuba. We are two people divided by one policy.
And the people of the U.S., even the government of the U.S., have been friends with the people and the government of Cuba. It’s a fight that has no meaning. The U.S. even helped us in our independence struggle against Spain in the war of 1895. “The Cuban economy feels more secure being in a partnership with the American economy. It has always been this way.

Even in the tourism sector as well. For us, it has always been a benefit to be close to the U.S., not only geographically, but also spiritually as good friends. Nevertheless, this issue with the negotiations, people still do not trust them. I think, at least, that the U.S. has good intentions with Cuba.”

http://mic.com/articles/113904/12-young-cubans-reveal-what-they-really-think-of-the-u-s
These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. Translation help from Eric French.

havana-live-Iberia2_1HAVANA, Mar 30 (acn) Spain´s Iberia airlines ratified the reopening of its Madrid-Havana route on June 1 describing it as the star on its long operational range.

A communiqué by the airline company on Monday reads that flights to Montevideo, Uruguay and to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic are also part of its agenda for the season. Iberia´s long operational range will open three destinations: Havana on June 1 following a two-year recess, Cali and Medellin, in Colombia, starting June 3 and adding to the agenda for the first time.
In Europe, Iberia Express will inaugurate flights to five destinations in Italy and to Hamburg, while it will increase the number of flights to Berlin, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.

havana-live-rent-logoHAVANA, 30 Mar. Tonight, in Havana, Cuba, an exciting piece of history comes to an end. The final curtain will fall on RENT, the first musical to be performed in the country, in 50 years.

It opened on December 24, 2014 and played an entire sold-out run, which ends tonight. Andy Senor, Jr. directed the production, presented by Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment.
Andy made his professional debut in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by Jonathan Larsen and served as Associate Director to Michael Greif on the Off-Broadway revival and re-staged the production in Tokyo.

Tonight In Havana, The Final Curtain Falls on RENT; Richard Jay-Alexander Spends Time With Andy Senor, Jr.Being of Cuban heritage, he was born and raised in Miami, Florida and, this Wednesday, April 1st and Friday, April 3rd, be sure to check out BroadwayWorld’s EXCLUSIVE Special Two-Part ALL EYES ON feature with Andy Senor, Jr. Richard Jay-Alexander spent a number of days with him during these past few weeks talking about Cuba, RENT and LOTS MORE!

Jay-Alexander’s Mother was from Havana and he has returned to visit, since spending early childhood years there. He and Andy met on Miami Beach’s famous Lincoln Road, again in New York City and at his home in Miami Beach.
BroadwayWorld.com will also be there when 7 principals from the Havana Cast will first step foot on U.S. soil, this coming week. Andy was honored last night, by FIU, his Alma Mater, at the 14th Annual Torch Awards, held in Miami Beach’s legendary Fontainebleau Hotel.

This morning, he is on a plane, headed directly to Havana’s Jose Marti Airport to join his cast for tonight’s historic closing. You won’t want to miss this upcoming special edition (two-parter) of ALL EYES ON later this week, with exclusive photos and footage.
http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Tonight-In-Havana-CUBA-The-Final-Curtain-Falls-on-RENT-Richard-Jay-Alexander-Spends-Time-With-Andy-Senor-Jr-20150329

Malcolm BerkoHAVANA, 29 Mar. (By Malcolm Berko, Columbian business columnist)
Dear Mr. Berko: What do you think of buying the Cuban 4.5 percent bonds issued in 1937, which came due in 1977 and sell for about 10 cents on the dollar? Now that President Barack Obama has begun to normalize relations with Cuba, I think those bonds could pay off, especially if the embargo were to be lifted. Seeing as they sell for 10 cents on the dollar, for $10,000 I could buy bonds with a face value of $100,000. What do you think?

While the U.S. was imposing sanctions on Iraq, Iraq’s sovereign bonds traded between 10 cents and 11 cents on the dollar. After the U.S. invasion, a settlement was negotiated by the Paris Club at 32 cents on the dollar. The Paris Club, an informal group of international officials, assists debtor nations in coordinating their debt solutions with creditor nations, helping them settle their sovereign debt. And the London Club helps nations settle loans that were extended to debtor nations by private banks and corporations.

Liberian debt, which was selling at 3 cents on the dollar in 1991, was settled at 21 cents when a new president who had worked for the World Bank was elected to lead that country. Before 1993, Vietnamese debt was selling at 10 cents on the dollar, and after the embargo was lifted, that debt was settled at 30 cents. havana-live-cuban-bondsThe list of settlements during the past 50 years is impressive. Since 1956, the Paris Club has brokered 430 debt agreements with 91 nations, totaling nearly $600 billion. In July, Russia agreed to write off Cuba’s $32 billion of Soviet-era debt, reducing Cuba’s foreign debt (bonds and loans) to $19 billion.

Last December, Obama decided to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Resultantly, some of Cuba’s debt, particularly the 4.5 percent Batista bonds you mentioned, became attractive. Fidel Castro defaulted on the bonds in 1960. Now some speculators suggest they’re attractive.
These bonds, called 77s because of their 1977 maturity date, may, in the future, be settled between 26 cents and 48 cents on the dollar, giving speculators a potential return of 180 to 490 percent. And yes, the 77s could be an excellent speculation, though too rank for my blood.mf_cubabonds03__970But you can’t buy those bonds, because a silly 18-year-old statute prevents U.S. citizens from investing in or owning Cuban assets. (Americans can own assets in Syria, Somalia and Iran, but they can’t own Cuban assets.) The ban can be lifted by Congress, but Miami’s ridiculously bombastic and sadly confused Cuban community continues to define U.S. policy regarding Cuba and won’t allow it.

A legitimate way to own the 77s is to purchase the unimpressive Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund (CUBA-$9.27), a $27 million closed-end fund that owns, among other Latin investments, Cuban bonds with a $1.6 million face value. A reader whose family lives in Canada told me that his brother purchased the 77s in his Canadian brokerage account.

Canadians have been allowed to travel to Cuba for years. Fortunately, Canada’s policy regarding Cuba is not determined by a warren of rabid expatriates residing in Miami who live in their memories of the past 56 years.  havana-live-cuban-bonds
If you have a relative in Canada, he can purchase the 77s for you, but be mindful that family members are often the worst people with whom to conduct a business transaction. And recognize that this transaction would also involve currency risk as you convert U.S. dollars into Canadian dollars to buy the 77s.
There would be additional currency risks when selling the 77s, because you would need to convert Canadian dollars back into U.S. dollars.

http://www.columbian.com/news/2015/mar/28/interest-in-cuban-bonds-has-its-qualifiers/

havana-live-ballet-shoesHAVANA, Mar 28  (RHC) Ballet academies from 15 countries will gather in Havana from March 29th through April 11 at the 21st International Ballet Academies Encounter.

This year’s international ballet event will welcome students, teachers and dance experts from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, France, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, the United States, Bolivia, Italy, Ecuador, and El Salvador.
For two weeks participants will be taught different classes, including ballet, point, physical training, repertoire, choreographic composition, character dance, pas de deux and other subjects.

Dedicated to the centennial of the birth of the so called Father of Cuban Ballet, maestro Fernando Alonso, the encounter is set to include lectures and optional workshops on the physical training of dancers, dance reviewing, acting, makeup, choreography, contemporary dance, folklore, nutrition, Spanish dance and others.

Students from participating academies will share the stage of the National Theater in seven galas whose main pieces will be a suite of the Act II of Swan Lake, a suite of La Bayadere and Graduation Ball.
The 13th International Ballet Students Competition will run parallel to the encounter from April 7 through 11at the National and América Theaters.
Presided over by National Ballet School Director, Ramona de Sáa, the jury is made up of Cuban National Ballet Company prima ballerina, Viengsay Valdés, and teachers and critics from Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, the United States and Cuba.

confiscated-by-castro.jpeg-620x412HAVANA, 28 Mar. The smell of Cuban coffee drifts from the kitchen as Carolyn Chester digs through faded photos that fill boxes spread across the dining table.

Friends linked arm-in-arm on a Cuban beach. Men in suits and women in evening gowns at a Havana nightclub. And in almost every frame, an American man with a salt-and-pepper mustache and a raven-haired woman — Chester’s parents — smiling at good fortune that, they could not know, would soon be snatched away.

“I always heard about Cuba … and all this money that we lost and ‘Maybe one day,’ but I didn’t understand it,” Chester says. Six decades later, that day may finally be nearing for Chester and others like her.
To reach it, though, diplomacy will have to settle very old scores. After Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, Cuba confiscated property belonging to thousands of American citizens and companies.

Edmund and Enna Chester lost an 80-acre farm, thousands of dollars’ worth of stock, and a Buick that, who knows, may still be plying Havana’s streets. In 1996, Congress passed a law insisting Cuba pay for confiscated property, valued today at $7 billion, before lifting the U.S. embargo.
That went unmentioned in President Barack Obama’s December announcement that the countries would resume diplomatic ties. Given Cuba’s frail economy, experts say companies whose property was taken might settle for rights to do business there and move on.

But corporations don’t cling to memories like families can. That’s clear inside Chester’s 832-square-foot bungalow, where her mother’s gold-framed portrait watches over the yellowing property deed and worthless stock certificates — reminders that Cuba before Castro is history. But bitterness over what came after lingers on.

Inside a little-known federal agency, 5,900 claims files tally property that once belonged to Americans in Cuba. But really, the claims are stories of lives left behind. Edmund Chester’s story began when he returned to Louisville, Kentucky, from the Army and found work as a newspaper reporter.
He taught himself Spanish and in 1929 was hired by The Associated Press, which dispatched him to Havana. Chester spent a decade reporting from the Caribbean and Latin America, time that seeded two crucial relationships. The first came after covering a 1933 revolt that put a former sergeant, Fulgencio Batista, in charge of Cuba’s military. In the 1950s, when Batista was Cuba’s dictator, he trusted Chester — by then a confidante and no longer a journalist — to write his biography.

The second began when Chester covered a 1939 earthquake in Chile and spotted Enna at a hotel swimming pool. In 1940, CBS hired Chester as chief of radio broadcasting for Latin America.
Eventually, he became the network’s director of news in New York. Chester returned to Cuba in 1952, buying a chain of radio stations on an island that was a U.S. economic outpost and a hedonistic getaway for Americans, including celebrities like Frank Sinatra.havana-live-seized-propertyChester eventually sold the stations, but the family continued splitting time between Havana and Florida. He opened a public relations agency in Cuba and bought an 80-acre farm there.

In 1957, the Chesters acquired $250,000 worth of Cuban Telephone Co shares. But Edmund Chester, then Batista’s speechwriter, grew uneasy as Castro gained ground. “I agree that we ought to make (a) complete break with Cuba at the earliest possible moment,” he wrote Enna in 1958.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/run-cuba-americans-cling-claims-seized-property-29975354

havana-live-cuba-interssection-usHAVANA, 28 Mar. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C., the diplomatic entity that represents Cuba in the U.S., issued a statement saying that in spite of moves toward normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it has still been unable to secure banking services in the U.S.

It has been a year since Cuba lost its banking services in the U.S. when M&T Bank terminated its account as of March 1, 2014. It has historically been hard for Cuba to find a bank willing to provide banking services because the regulations on doing business with sanctioned countries have been extremely complicated and consequences for errors can be costly.

But since Obama’s speech last December announcing the beginning of normalization of relations with Cuba, regulations have eased. For now, however, they have apparently not eased enough to make any banks wish to take on Cuba as a customer.
As a result of its failure to secure banking services, the Cuban consular office has extended its consular services until June 30. It will continue to operate as it has for the last year.

For U.S. tourists traveling to Cuba during the year when Cuba could not get banking services, the banking issue has not had much effect on their ability to travel. According to a statement from the Cuban Interests Section:
“The Interests Section will continue working towards a solution that allow for normalization of the work of its Consular Office, while it reiterates that services related to humanitarian situations will continue to be expedited.”
http://www.travelpulse.com/news/destinations/cuba-still-cant-get-a-us-bank.html

havana-live-Human Right HAVANA,27 Mar. AFP — The United States and Cuba will hold talks on human rights, one of the most delicate issues pending in their historic rapprochement, on Tuesday in Washington, Havana said.

The “bilateral dialogue on human rights…demonstrates Cuba’s readiness to address any issue despite our differences,” the deputy director of the Cuban foreign ministry, Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, told journalists Thursday.
The communist island nation had proposed the meeting, he said. Cuba, he said, “hopes this dialogue will unfold in a constructive tone, on the basis of reciprocity, without conditions or discriminatory treatment and in full respect of sovereignty, independence and non-interference in the countries’ internal affairs.”

The talks will include “the concerns we have about human rights in the United States and other areas.” “We are aware that we have profound differences with the government of the United States in the areas of political systems, democracy and human rights, and international law,” he said.
Read all of The Tico Times’ Cuba coverage Since President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro announced on December 17 that their countries would resume relations after more than five decades of enmity, the two sides have held three rounds of talks.

But they have not yet broached the sensitive issue of human rights, an area where Washington has called for sweeping reforms from the communist island. Cuba counters that the United States’ own record on human rights is lacking, pointing especially to the prison at Guantánamo Bay set up to hold terror suspects in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The countries have so far focused on reestablishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies, which Obama is keen to see happen before the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10 and 11.Cuba has insisted it first be removed from the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terror.

The two sides also have to iron out a number of other issues, such as compensation for American property nationalized after the Cuban Revolution, freedom of movement for diplomats and the embargo the United States has imposed on Cuba since 1962, which Obama would need the blessing of the Republican-controlled Congress to lift.

us-mobile-providersHAVANA, 28 Mar.  (AP)   A delegation of U.S. telecommunication officials is in Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts as part of talks to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries.

A Cuban government statement says Daniel Sepulveda, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy, will leave Cuba on Thursday. He has been accompanied by officials from the U.S. State Department, the Federal Communications Commission and Commerce Department.

Wednesday’s statement says that “the Cuban side offered the U.S. visitors information about the country’s information and cybersecurity policy.”
The statement also says the two sides discussed new regulations in Washington for implementing modifications to the U.S. trade embargo with respect to communications. The U.S. and Cuba are in the middle of talks aimed at restoring diplomatic relations and reopening embassies.

Une délégation de télécommunications américaine à La Havane

LA HAVANE, 26 Mar. (AFP) Une haute délégation américaine effectue jusqu’à jeudi une mission à Cuba pour définir les contours de la future collaboration entre les deux pays en matière de télécommunications et d’internet, a rapporté mercredi soir le ministère cubain des Communications.

Menée par Daniel Sepulveda, secrétaire général adjoint du bureau des affaires économiques du DépartemDanielSepulvedav15x7_200_1ent d’état américain, cette délégation a rencontré des hauts responsables cubains qui leur ont notamment exposé “la politique d’informatisation et de +cyberrsécurité+” de Cuba, a indiqué le ministère dans un communiqué lu sur l’antenne de la télévision d’Etat.

Avec le vice-ministre des Communications Jorge Luis Perdomo, cette délégation a “échangé sur la portée des nouvelles règlementations décidées par le gouvernement des Etats-Unis” en la matière, dans le cadre d’une série d’assouplissements des restrictions de l’embargo économique contre l’île, en vigueur depuis 1962.

Prises dans la foulée de l’annonce historique du rapprochement entre les deux pays mi-décembre, ces mesures autorisent désormais les entreprises de télécommunications américaines à offrir leurs services sur le territoire cubain.
Les autorités américaines ont indiqué que cet assouplissement des exportations vers l’île concernait notamment internet, que ce soit au niveau des infrastructures, des logiciels ou des terminaux grand public, alors que l’embargo reste toujours en place.

En février dernier, la compagnie américaine de télécommunications IDT Domestic Telecom et le monopole d’Etat cubain Etecsa ont ainsi conclu un accord pour l’établissement de connexions téléphoniques directes entre les deux pays.
Interrompues à plusieurs reprises depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir des castristes en 1959, les lignes directes étaient coupées depuis 1999 et les appels entre les deux territoires s’opéraient depuis via d’autres pays.

En février également, le site américain de vidéo en ligne Netflix a ouvert son service à Cuba, malgré le faible nombre de Cubains connectés à internet chez eux (seulement 3,4% des foyers équipés sur l’île, selon l’Union internationale des télécommunications).
A Cuba l’accès à internet reste strictement règlementé et contrôlé. Seules certaines catégories professionnelles sont autorisées à être connectées à domicile, alors que les tarifs des salles publiques de navigation demeurent prohibitifs pour la majeure partie de la population.

Arrivée mardi sur l’île, la délégation américaine doit quitter La Havane jeudi après avoir rencontré des responsables de plusieurs ministères et de la compagnie Etecsa, ainsi que des universitaires cubains.

 havana-live-ship-harbour-havanaHAVANA, 26, Mar. – Sanctions have been removed on nearly five dozen shipping companies, trading firms and individuals that had been blacklisted for links to Cuba.

The sweeping delisting came as Washington and Havana progress in negotiations to restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility. Most of the companies removed from the U.S. Treasury sanctions list were based in Panama.
Also included were several ships registered elsewhere, and two firms in Florida. The U.S. Treasury gave no details on why the companies had been on its sanctions list, but according to the Cuba-based news agency Prensa Latina, they are Cuban-controlled or have links to Cuba.

Last week Washington and Havana wrapped up a third round of talks on normalizing relations, which were focused on the path towards reestablishing formal relations and reopening embassies. President Barack Obama is keen for the two countries to reopen embassies ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11.

But the communist island has insisted it first be removed from the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terror. The two sides remain at odds on several other thorny issues, such as compensation for American property nationalized after the Cuban Revolution and freedom of movement for diplomats.
And lifting the trade and financial embargo the United States slapped on Cuba in 1962 would require approval from Congress — a difficult political battle with both houses currently under Republican control.

The two sides are next due to meet in late March, when they will address the delicate issue of human rights for the first time.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

havana-live-radio-martiHAVANA – MIAMI, 25 Mar.— The rat-a-tat Cuban-inflected Spanish of the two Radio Martí hosts ricocheted back and forth during “Revoltillo,” a show laced with humor that airs classified ads posted in Cuba on a Craigslist-style website called Revolico.

Recorded here but aimed at an audience in Cuba, where Internet access is severely limited and the local news media is tightly controlled, the show presents news unfiltered by Cuban censors and snippets of life on the island, like examples of the recently unleashed zeal for private enterprise.
So one of the hosts, as part of an effort to bolster Cuba’s fledgling independent businesses, recently promoted “Hilda in Havana,” who is offering desserts and decorations for events and restaurants.

But three decades after becoming a Cold War staple — regularly criticized for anti-Castro, one-dimensional slant and advocacy — Radio and TV Martí are at a crossroads, scrambling to stay relevant as the relationship between Cuba and the United States inches toward a thaw.

At their headquarters in Miami, the Martís try to keep pace with changing technology and habits on the island, greater competition and the longstanding concerns of federal watchdogs.
For instance, down the hall from the broadcasting studio, employees burned DVDs with news and features, 15,000 of which are distributed monthly in Cuba and circulated through flash drives as an end run around Cuba’s knack for jamming Martí television and radio signals.

Often reported by journalists in Cuba, the coverage includes stories about housing travails, the latest small-business ventures (public bathrooms in private homes, 25 cents for a quick stop, 50 cents for longer visits), dissident detentions, how to find the rare Wi-Fi hot spots. The biggest challenge, as always, remains being seen and heard in Cuba, where Radio and TV Martí are illegal and mostly blocked.
But no less problematic is the need to entice Cubans with better programming, particularly at a time when there is more competition — Cubans now obtain flash drives that are loaded with television shows and movies from satellite dishes and sold on the black market.

“The decision about what to do should not be based on diplomatic relations but on the lack of a free flow of information into Cuba — and that has not changed,” said Carlos A. García-Pérez, the director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which is part of an independent federal agency that oversees Radio and TV Martí.
“Our work is even more important now.” No one disputes the success of the Martís in one respect: angering the Castro brothers, who have long viewed the transmissions as violations of international norms.

In January, President Raúl Castro called for an end to the Martís as a condition for normalizing relations with the United States. “The one thing that has kept it alive with policy makers is the absolute antagonism of the Cuban regime for this broadcasting venture,” said Helle C. Dale, who has studied the Martís for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

But the Martís, with a budget of $27 million, have critics that include former American diplomats in Cuba. Opponents have long considered them taxpayer-funded relics controlled by Cuban exiles that too often slide into propaganda, which has damaged their credibility in the past.
The Cuban American National Foundation, a once-monolithic lobbying group of Cuban exiles, helped persuade the Reagan administration to establish Radio Martí in 1983. It started broadcasting in 1985, and TV Martí began in 1990. The foundation’s influence over the Martís remains strong, experts said.

Through the years, reports by congressional staff members and federal agencies, like the Inspector General for the State Department, have delivered stinging assessments; the most recent report came last summer. They have accused the Martís of “a lack of balance, fairness and objectivity,” of cronyism, malfeasance and, most recently, low employee morale.
A frequent source of displeasure was the millions spent until recently on an aerostat balloon and a plane to try to transmit TV signals to Cuba. The project was a failure. havana-live-radio-marti

“There have only been costs, and zero benefits,” said John S. Nichols, a specialist in international communications at Pennsylvania State University who has studied the Martís. “And it became a flash point that caused some serious problems in the U.S.-Cuba relationship.” In Congress, where the Martís have champions and detractors, Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota, reintroduced legislation this year to eliminate them.

While Obama administration officials support the Martís, they are eager to cut the Office of Cuba Broadcasting loose from the federal mantle. In its budget for next year, the administration proposed consolidating the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and Voice of America’s Spanish-language programs, turning them into a nonprofit. The organization would be funded by federal grants, with federal oversight, but would not be part of the government.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which gained prominence during the Soviet era and served as the model for the Martís, has long operated this way, as a “grantee.” Supporters said the change would make the Martís more flexible. But Cuban-American lawmakers in Congress say the shift would weaken the government’s commitment to the broadcasts.
“Its mission must remain true to its principles from when it was founded by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and to its aim at promoting freedom and democracy,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican. Still, there is little danger that the Martís will lose funding altogether.

“It is more important now than ever, especially as you get to this openness stage,” said Michael P. Meehan, a Democrat who until recently served as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees the Martís. At the Martí headquarters, Mr. García-Pérez, who took over in 2010, said he had focused on diversifying coverage of Cuba and ramping up a Martí website.
Most important, he said, is that the Martís are bringing more Cubans into the conversation through video, articles, texts, blogs and social media.

Last year, Martí’s website drew 3.9 million visits, almost half from outside the United States. Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Another goal was to lift journalistic standards, he said, particularly an attempt to offer more diverse views of Cuban life and United States foreign policy.

Reporters now call the Cuban government to get its response for certain stories. There are still slips. In a 2012 Martí editorial, Mr. García-Pérez, speaking for the American government, called the cardinal in Cuba, Jaime Ortega, a “government lackey.” Mr. García-Pérez said he did not regret the word choice, which drew sharp criticism from some members of Congress.
The Martís also have expanded their cadre of journalists in Cuba who file videos and articles, with their names made public at great risk. Some of those interviewed by the reporters are also identified, a sign of diminishing fear.

Citizens can post their own blogs and news items through features like “Reporta Cuba,” which often spreads news of detentions. And Piramideo, a separate social network created by the Martís, allows Cubans to use cellphones or email accounts to gain access to a site that circumvents government restrictions. From there, they can send messages to hundreds of Cubans in Cuba about nearly anything.
How many people can receive or choose to pay attention to the Martís is unclear. Satellite dishes have made the Martís more available to Cubans, Mr. García-Pérez said.

Past surveys have indicated that the overall audience is tiny — as low as 2 percent of the island’s population, although measuring audience size in Cuba is nearly impossible. Mr. García-Pérez said he knows that Cubans look and listen because they send email, text and call in to the programs and reporters. In Miami, where gothic power struggles among exiles over the Martís still play out, there is some skepticism about the rush into digital communications at the expense of broadcast radio.

Radio can evade jams more readily, and it is the most effective way to reach Cubans. Too much emphasis on digital media may doom the Martís, some say, because the vast majority of Cubans lack Internet access at home.
“In Cuba, there are no new platforms because in Cuba there is practically no Internet; that is not the way to penetrate,” said Roberto Rodríguez Tejera, director of Radio Martí during the Clinton administration.
“It’s not the present; it’s not even the near future.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/us/radio-tv-marti-cuba.html?_r=0

havana-live-afp-mogheriniLa HAVANE, 25 mars (Reuters) – L’Union européenne et Cuba ont décidé d’accélérer le rythme de leurs discussions visant à améliorer leurs relations bilatérales et espèrent aboutir pour la fin 2015, a déclaré mardi la chef de la diplomatie européenne, Federica Mogherini.

L’UE et Cuba ont commencé à renégocier leur accord politique bilatéral en avril 2014 dans le cadre de l’amélioration des relations entre les Vingt-huit et l’île communiste après la levée des sanctions diplomatiques en 2008.
Mais trois réunions seulement ont eu lieu en 11 mois. C’est pourquoi les deux parties veulent accélérer le rythme, a déclaré la Haute Représentante de l’Union européenne pour les affaires étrangères et la politique de sécurité, à l’issue d’une réunion avec le président cubain Raul Castro et d’autres responsables cubains.

“Nous avons décidé aujourd’hui d’accélérer le rythme de nos négociations, dans l’espoir de parvenir à finaliser le cadre de notre dialogue et d’un accord d’ici la fin de l’année”, a déclaré à la presse Federica Mogherini. En dehors des réunions au calendrier officiel, les deux parties auront l’occasion de se rencontrer plusieurs fois cette année.
Le 22 avril, le ministre cubain des Affaires étrangères Bruno Rodriguez doit rendre visite à la Haute représentante à Bruxelles. Les deux chefs de la diplomatie se verront aussi au Sommet des Amériques prévu les 10 et11 avril au Panama, auquel Cuba et l’UE sont invités pour la première fois.

Enfin, les responsables cubains assisteront à un sommet des chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement de l’EU et d’Amérique latine qui doit se tenir à Bruxelles en juin. Plusieurs facteurs expliquent le retard pris dans les négociations et notamment le souhait des Etats-Unis et de Cuba, annoncé en décembre, de renouer leurs relations diplomatiques.
De fait, les Etats-Unis et Cuba ont réussi à organiser rapidement des réunions de haut niveau à La Havane et à Washington, tandis que des discussions entre l’UE et Cuba étaient reportées par deux fois.